Remarkable Trees of Virginia: The Emancipation Oak

This tree’s pretty amazing, isn’t it?  This is the first live oak (Quercus virginiana) that we have visited on our Remarkable Trees of Virginia journeys.  The tree is located just off Emancipation Drive on the campus of Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia.  This great tree has stood witness over the centuries to many historic events.  In fact, based on several accounts, it is believed that in 1863 the first southern reading of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation occurred under this very tree.  Years later, Booker T. Washington supposedly studied beneath it’s branches as well.  However, maybe most significant is the fact that Mary Smith Peake started a school for the children of former slaves under this tree at a time when doing so was illegal.
This was my first time to visit Hampton (Jonny drove here once a few years ago to buy a used piano) and it is such a neat city!


  1. Fred Gerrior says:


    As one who is fascinated with “old” things, living or not living, I was particularily taken with your Emancipation Oak in Virginia. I came across its existance only because I was viewing a poetry book about it called, Under the Freedom Tree by Susan VanHecke. Perhaps, you are familiar with her book?

    Although I am a Canadian, I am somewhat of an American Civil War buff and I hope, some day, to visit Hampton along with other historical places especially as pertain to association with the Civil War.

    Here is a website that lists 17 confirmed gravesites of Civil War Veterans. I have visited one, Charles Robinson a Medal of Honour winner who is buried in Holy Cross Cemetery in Halifax, Nova Scotia. A little American flag was placed next to his grave — perhaps, he has family in my neck of the woods?

    It is interesting and rewarding to view our common histories. I should welcome any questions!


    Fred Gerrior
    Lower Sackville, NS, Canada

  2. Hi there!

    Just stumbled on your blog! We are homeschooling Virginias. This tree is beautiful. We just visited Monticello and saw one just like it!

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